The 1960s

Page 12 – 1969 - key events

First steel produced from local ironsand

In 1959 the government established the New Zealand Steel Investigating Company with a brief to determine the technical and economic feasibility of manufacturing steel from local raw materials. After initially relying on scrap iron when it opened in 1968, New Zealand Steel's new mill at Glenbrook, south of Auckland, developed new techniques it to make use of the abundant local supplies of ironsand (titanomagnetite).

The ‘Save Manapouri’ campaign

Lake Manapouri

The ‘Save Manapouri' campaign was launched at a public meeting in Invercargill in October. It was a response to a plan to raise the level of Lake Manapouri by 8 m for a hydroelectric power scheme that would supply a new aluminium smelter at Tīwai Point, Bluff. The opposition to this proposal was New Zealand's first mass environmental movement. 

Many New Zealanders opposed the project because of its ecological impact. Others were concerned that the power needs of the Comalco (an overseas consortium)" target="_blank">Royal Forest and Bird Protection Societypresented to Parliament a petition with more than 260,000 signatures opposing the project. Following its victory in the 1972 general election, Labour passed legislation protecting the lake's level. Six Guardians were appointed to oversee the management of the lake, including Ron McLean. All had been prominent leaders of the Save Manapouri campaign, 

Rainbow II wins One Ton Cup

Crop from cover of book about Chris Bouzaid

In the various Olympic classes, the America's Cup and the great ocean classics such as round-the-world and Sydney to Hobart, Kiwis have built a formidable reputation in yachting. On 21 July (the day that the first moon landing was broadcast live on New Zealand radio) news arrived from Heligoland, Germany, that Chris Bouzaid had wrenched the prestigious One Ton Cup from its German holder in his homemade Rainbow II. This victory signalled New Zealand’s emergence as a major force in world yachting and secured the Sportsman of the Year award for Bouzaid.

Introduction of blood and breath alcohol limits for drivers

Breath test - image from PA

In 1960, 374 New Zealanders lost their lives in road accidents. By 1969 the number of fatalities had increased by almost 200. With cars becoming more powerful, there were calls for an increase to the open-road speed limit of 50 mph (80 km/h). This was raised to 55 mph (88 km/h) in 1962 and to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 1969. While speed was one factor contributing to the ever-increasing road toll, drink-driving was another. In 1969 blood alcohol limits and breath-testing procedures were introduced to tackle the latter problem. Breathalysers helped identify drivers with more tham 100 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood in through their systems.

Other 1969 events

  • New Zealand's first major oil strike was made at the Maui I well off the Taranaki coast. Exploration for oil in the Maui II field began later in 1969.
  • Archbishop Peter McKeefry became New Zealand's first Catholic cardinal.
  • ‘Nippon clip-ons' widened the Auckland Harbour Bridge from four lanes to eight.
  • Twenty-year-olds were allowed to vote in general elections for the first time.
  • James K. Baxter established a community at Jerusalem on the Whanganui River and began referring to himself as ‘Hemi'.
  • Shane won the Loxene Golden Disc Award for ‘Saint Paul'. These awards were the forerunner of today's Tui and New Zealand Music Awards.
  • The publication of A lion in the meadow launched the career of the acclaimed New Zealand children's writer Margaret Mahy.
  • Shortly after midnight on 22 June, a lahar on Mt Ruapehu destroyed the kiosk at the Whakapapa ski field. Thanks to the lateness of the hour, no skiers were at risk.

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How to cite this page

'1969 - key events', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 24-May-2024

Community contributions

2 comments have been posted about 1969 - key events

What do you know?

Annett Baxter

Posted: 01 Aug 2023

To the webmaster, You always provide great information and insights.


Posted: 07 May 2019

In August 1969 the Scouts of New Zealand initiated the first Conservation Week, would be nice to see some newspaper clippings of this. This year is the 50th anniversary of Conservation week